This is a photogaphic blog with a particular focus on walking the Spanish Caminos. Also included are walks in The New Forest, Wales and Southern England.

Sevilla 13th - 14th October

My local.

Near the Cathedral.

So, there were no problems getting from home to Seville. Left Salisbury at 5.30 am for Bournemouth airport to Malaga then got a train to Sevilla. It´s hot here - yesterday was 27c so I´ll need plenty of water en route. I´ve been here before so no problems getting around and it´s great to dip into some familiar cosy bars for a cerveza and tapas. I´ll visit the Cathedral later and check out a few more cosy bars.

Leaving Sevilla, 15th October

9 am and I'm on my way. Nth. side Isabel II bridge.

The first flecha amarillo, sth. side of Isabel II bridge. These yellow arrows and other navigation aids enable walkers to walk the 1000km to Santiago without maps etc. However, they can be a little inconsistent, and it's important to have some sort of
written guide in addition.

A Praying Mantis on the street in Santiponce

Cotton growing in fields near Guillena

I grabbed a quick breakfast at about 8.30 and started walking from the Cathedral at 9 ish. Had a great view of Sevilla from the Isabelle bridge over the Rio Guadalquivir and found my first yellow navigation arrow (flecha amarillo) on the other side. The arrows are small but plentiful and navigating out of the city was easy. As soon as I thought of the word flecha amarillo the song 'is this the way to amarillo` came in to my head and I've been humming it all day. It sets a good walking pace! Good job I'm alone.

The plant life is completely different to that in England and even before Santiponce I had seen agave, squirting cucumber, bitter orange, olive trees, palms, jasmin (in flower) and fennel (great to nibble). I've seen none of the larger birds of prey yet but I'm sure it won't be long, together with the birds migrating to Africa.

The heat here is surprising, somewhere in the high 20's Celsius. Fortunately there are abundant cafes for iced Coca Cola, chocolate milk and various other health drinks.

I'm currently in a small town called Guillena which is 23k from Sevilla. I'm in the library using their free internet and will endeavour to post some photos when I work out how (not easy when your Spanish is not that good). If all else fails I'll blog from my phone.

I've not decided which town to walk to tomorrow. I've a choice of a very long walk or a short one. Hmm.......

Oh, by the way, I'm in the Hostal Frances which is perfectly OK. It has air-con, en suite, TV and a view of the street, all for 21 euros.

Andrew. 5.23PM

Guillena to Castilblanco, 16th October.

Agave Mexicana in flower near Guillena

Shadow and a prickly pear cactus on my head.

On the way.

View over Castilblanco from the alburgue's roof terrace.

I left Guillena at 8.45 and after getting slightly lost I found a flecha amarillo which guided me through a dirty part of town and down to the river where I crossed a causeway, said hello to some ponies and got on to the Camino into the countryside. I met many mountain bikers and walkers, many from Sevilla, doing part of the walk to Castilblanco. At hte end of the days walk they congregated in Castilblanco and quite a few of them were very interested in the alburgue for some reason. So I gave them a guided tour of our 1 dormitary, terrace and toilets?
It's a decent little town - not too big or too small, plenty of bars and places to eat. Met Svetlana who started the Camino at the same time as me and "Ovi" the poet who is walking around Spain constantly, selling his poems and living very frugally.

Castilblanco to Almaden, 17th October

Leaving town.

Sand trees sky sun heat and silence.

A beautiful hot, dry valley full of the scent of aromatic plants.
A walk with a sting in the tail......

.....a long, hot, steep stony walk to the top of this hill
overlooking Almaden and a bed for the night.

This mornings sunrise from the alburgue terrace was something special. The town was silent but for the sound of crowing cockerels and dogs "in conversation".

It didn't take long for the sun to creep over the horizon and gently cook us for the rest of the day. The first 16kms were on tarmac and I walked at quite a pace to get this section over with. Then it was through a large set of gates and into the national park for some peaceful walking. The camino drops down into a river valley. There was barely a breath of wind and it really was wonderfully hot. Vultures and eagles circled overhead looking to feed on a weary pilgrim. I love the heat and the silence.

During lunch I was overtaken by Maria, a Spanish woman in her 60's who runs marathons. With a tiny backpack she walks faster than any of us! In trainers too.

The hill at the end of the day was cruel. Stony and steep but at least there were a few trees on the way up to shelter from the sun. The view from the top was worth it and I spent 5 minutes or so drinking water safe in the knowledge that the town of Almaden was only 5 minutes away.

On the way down to town I met up with Maria, Svetlana and a Spanish couple who kindly guided us to the alburgue. Another place I would recommend.

Almaden to Monesterio 18th October

Sunrise 1 hour after leaving Almaden in the dark.

Waymark after Almaden.

Orange trees, Real de la Jara.

Looking back.

"War of the Worlds" church, entering Monesterio.

I left the Alburgue in the dark as I like to see the sunrise. Got slightly lost before I'd even got out of the town but it was ok after that as long as I concentrated on the waymarking arrows by torchlight in the dark. The terrain and the waymarking made it very easy to get lost as there are tracks leading off in many directions. Met up with Dennis from Berlin along the way and had a good long chat. Stayed with him for the afternoon and had a beer together once we had found the hostal Extremadura in Monesterio.

Monesterio to Fuente de Cantos, 19th October

Not pretty, but a welcome sign in to the countryside
out of Monesterio.

The landscape beyond Monesterio is beautiful....

Some sort of Crocus possibly?


A distant Fuente de Cantos.

The streets.

Home for the night, the converted convent alburgue.

I left in the dark again this morning and had a cafe con leche in the cafe just outside the Hostal Extremadura. Monasterio is a lively town with plenty of cafes and bars. Apparently, it's the pig or jamon capital of Spain (that's saying something!). The hostal was very good - quiet, TV, air con, ensuite for 15 euros, and the owners very friendly. Sometimes watching junk TV and taking the weight off your feet for an hour is the perfect end to a walk. Other times it's straight out for a beer or 2.

The walk was again beautiful, the good weather is constant and conversations with other walkers are interesting and break up the sometimes monotonous parts of the walk.

The distance was only 22 kms so arriving at 2pm gave me plenty of time to look around town and get a bite to eat.
Checked with the hospitalera the route out of town as it's another walk in the dark tomorrow morning.


Fuente de Cantos to Zafra, 20th October

Leaving Fuente de Cantos, distant "statue" of a bull.

Entering Calzadilla de los Barros, 9AM.

Entering Zafra via the old railway station.

The walking has been great, if a little strenuous at times. The landscape is hilly and there are often stunning views from the higher points. The Spanish people are very friendly and the group of walkers that I´m walking with are an interesting bunch all from different countries. I`ve currently stayed in Sevilla, Guillena, Castilblanco, Almaden, Monesterio and last night, from where I write now, Fuente de Cantos a small pueblo blanco in the hills. I`ll fill in more later but I want to get going in 5 minutes as the dawn is the best part of the day. By the way I think the time of posting shown here is wrong as I`m usually asleep by 10. It`s now about 7.20 wednesday morning.

In addition:

Slept on the sofa last night as the snoring in the dorm was to much for a light sleeper. Left the alburgue in the dark with Svetlana as getting lost in the dark is easily done and 2 pairs of eyes (and torches) are better than one. There was a beautiful sunrise, had cafe con leche in Sancho Perez and talked all the way to Zafra.

Found out along the way that the Squirting cucumber plant really does explode if you poke it. Apparently they can be toxic/caustic. Quite funny though!

Arrived in the city of Zafra after a reasonably easy trek of 26k through a beautiful undulating landscape of vineyards, olive groves and oak plantations. The weather's hot so I'm carrying 2-3 litres of water. Eating very little en route, just an orange or a peach all day.

Home for the night is the converted convent. I would recommend this place - clean, quiet and comfortable.

Zafra to Almendralejo, 21st October

5 km from Zafra we enter Los Santos de Maimona as the sun rises

On the way to Villafranca de los Barros

Near Villafranca

The view behind

The view ahead

The view to the left

Today was a bit of a marathon, nearly 40k in intense heat. Left Zafra at 7.15 and passed through Villafranca late morning. I could have stayed here at the 20k mark but there are better places to have a free afternoon so I carried on to Almendralejo which will allow me sometime in the historic city of Merida tomorrow and I might spend Saturday there as a rest day.

The wine harvest has finished and there are plenty of bunches of ripe black grapes to be had along the path. The olive harvest is taking place now and their are dozens of people out in the fields raking them out of the trees making for good photos.

I´m staying tonight in Pension Rosa near the Camino´s entrance to the city which will allow me a quick exit in the morning as I need to backtrack 3k to get back on the Camino.

Our current ´band of pilgrims´ may be splitting up now as we are starting to travel at different speeds but there are many more ahead and behind for interesting conversations and moral support.

All the best,

Andrew, 7.21pm Thursday.

Almendralejo to Merida, 22nd October

Something to aim for leaving Torremegia.

Olive picker, Torremegia.

Very distant view of Merida.

Crossing the 0.7km Roman bridge into Merida with
Ellamiel, Werner and Alfonso.

I don't know why I went to Almendralejo.

Someone said it would gain me an extra day? Why did I listen. I'm not short of days anyway! I should have gone the extra 9kms to Torremegia. It might be a 'one horse town' but Almendralejo is a 10 truck town. However, I was lucky in that I quickly found a decent pension to stay in and a library to blog from. Ate, drank and had an interesting conversation with the old lady (artist) who owns the pension and has her paintings hanging on the walls.

In the morning I left in the dark and promptly got lost. I took the wrong road out of town and walked shoulder to shoulder on an unlit road with big trucks. As dangerous as it was I knew I was heading in the right direction and an hour later intersected the Camino at sunrise with great relief!
It was so good to be on the Camino again. I made up a song but can't remember it now - lucky you.
As one of the lowest points of the whole trip it really wasn't that bad!
Got to Torremegia and had a cafe con leche in my favourite (Torremegia) cafe from 2008.

10 minutes after leaving Torremegia I came to a stream surrounded by reeds and couldn't see a way round it so I climbed up a steep embankment, through brambles, up to the road. Behind me I could see 3 other pilgrims and shouted to them to climb up to the road because of the 'agua' (water). They then disappeared into the reeds. A while later they reappeared and we got into conversation. They thought I was saying that I had run out of water and was in trouble! How funny, only 10 minutes out of the last town and they thought I was dying of thirst and were ready to give me their water. We found a place in the shade, had a picnic, and were instant friends. Such is the Camino.

We walked and talked for the next few hours and entered Merida together.

Rest day in Merida, 23rd October.

"Diana" Temple, Merida.
Someone lived here until the 1970's!

I'm not a great lover of the big cities but I need a rest and need to do some admin from an internet cafe.

Stayed in a posh hotel last night and will move to the alburgue this evening to be a pilgrim again. I don't like the feeling of being a tourist.

I'm looking forward to walking again!!

Merida to Alcuescar, 24th October

Roman aqueduct, leaving Merida.

Passing through Aljucen.

Emergency rations, condensed milk.

Michael, Klaus and Alejandro as we approach the monastery
in Alcuescar.

Left the alburgue in Merida with a Spanish cycle tourist and we walked for a while to find our way out of town in the twilight. Took a while to escape the suburbs and in no time I was at the Embalsa de Proserpina which is the lake that supplied Roman Merida with water via the aqueduct that still remains.

Along the way met up again with Klaus, Alejandro and Michael with whom I would walk for the next few days.

Klaus is the retired mayor of Hamburg and a real character. He carries a heavy 13kg pack with binoculars (unused) a half kilo dictionary and a guide to Madrid (just in case). Now, for the non walkers among you, travelling light is extremely important and most aim for a weight of less than 10kg. So I have great respect for this man of 64 who can walk 40-50km every day with the pace set by Alejandro, late twenties and an extremely fit professional Spanish cyclist.

Michael is from a mountain village in Austria and his work situation allows him to have several months in which to walk and climb.

Alejandro, a young Spaniard, by far the fittest and always at the front setting the pace.

Met up again with another 3 walkers - Ellamiel from Spain, Alfonso from Holland and Werner from Germany, and we all piled in to the Monastery at Alcuescar for great food, hospitality and accommodation.

Alcuescar to Caceres 45 kms, 25th October

Alejandro and I at 7am. There was a stunning full moon
walk by but we needed the torches on several occasions
to find
the yellow arrows.

Entering Casas de Don Antonio.

Sunrise, mist, holm oak. Absolutely no photoshop involved!

100m later a Roman bridge.

Crossing the airfield near Caceres.

My advice to anyone thinking of walking from Alcuescar
is to stop in this lonely town of Valdesalor rather than walk
the extra 12 difficult kms to Caceres. Unless, of course, you are a masochist. The final walk to Caceres is steep, stony and exposed and not what you want at the end of a long day.
This way you can arrive later the next morning allowing plenty of time to be a tourist for the rest of the day in Caceres. The guys who had walked the hard 45+ kms from Zafra to Torremegia said today's walk was much harder.
We did walk fast though and were there by 4pm.

Modern bell tower, Valdesalor.

Finally, entering Caceres.
Only another hour of wrong directions from locals before we arrive at the

Today's walk of about 45kms was, by far, the hardest but was also one of the best, for many reasons. We left by moonlight before 7 and set a good pace. To walk slowly would mean a late entry into Caceres and anyway, by now, we were walking fit and 45kms at speed could be enjoyed, in a masochistic kind of a way. We walked fast in the heat and enjoyed it.We had cafe breaks, a picnic and complained quietly at the stony hills toward the end. But we did it and congratulated ourselves with beers when we finished! A walk to be remembered, with good companions.

So, if you're up for a long hard walk then go to Caceres. If not then stay the night at Valdesalor and arrive at Caceres the next morning.